Greens surge amid heavy losses for Germany’s ruling parties in EU election

Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right bloc was leading in European elections in Germany, exit polls showed Sunday, but the score was shaping out to be a historic low, while the Greens recorded a surge.

Greens surge amid heavy losses for Germany's ruling parties in EU election
The Greens' Annalena Baerbock and Katrin Göring-Eckard celebrate after the exit polls were announced. Photo: DPA

Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and allies Christian Social Union (CSU) were set to garner around 28 percent, two separate polls by national broadcasters ARD and ZDF showed, sharply under their 35.3 percent in 2014.

READ ALSO: 'Brexit will hinder AfD success': What you need to know about the EU elections in Germany

Her coalition partner SPD was also headed for its poorest showing in an EU poll with around 15.5 percent, as the centre-left party was knocked from second position by the Greens, which surged to between 20.5 and 22 percent.
The far-right AfD was set to improve on their 2014 score of 7.1 percent, with exit polls seeing it coming in at around 10.5 percent.
Meanwhile, broadcaster ARD predicted that the turnout for the elections in Germany was about 59 percent. In 2014 it was about 48 percent.

Exit polls showed the Greens had surged into second place behind the CDU/CSU.

Latest surveys have suggested that the climate crisis has overtaken immigration as the main worry.
Illustrating the shift, the Greens were forecast to be heading for an all-time high score which is double that of their 2014 showing.
“It's the first time that climate change has played such a role in an election,” said Greens chief Robert Habeck.
They tweeted to say they thank you to everyone who had voted for them, while pictures emerged of party members celebrating the result.
Ska Keller, who was leading the Greens' list, pledged that “we must now implement (our proposals) on climate change”.
Jörg Meuthen, AfD top candidate with supporters when the exit poll was announced. Photo: DPA
School strikes by students joining young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg's protests on Fridays have given momentum to the cause.
The environmental party may have also benefited from the impact of an online assault by a young German YouTuber against Merkel's CDU party days before the vote.
Accusing the Christian Democratic Union of not doing enough against global warming, the almost one hour long blistering attack has been viewed more than 11 million times by Sunday.
This graphic shows how the under 30s in Germany voted: overwhelmingly for the Greens.
The leadership of both Merkel's centre right and the SPD voiced disappointment at their scores.
CDU and CSU supporters in Berlin after the first exit polls. Photo: DPA
But both were at pains to stress that they are not about to break up the coalition.
CDU party general secretary Paul Ziemiak told ZDF the coalition “must go on so that there is stability in Germany,” stressing that for his party, “it's about the country and not party political questions”.
Separately, his counterpart at the SPD, Lars Klingbeil said the result “cannot remain without consequences”.
But he said he “would advise against any personnel discussion”, in what appeared to be a move at batting down rumours of a putsch being planned against party chief Andrea Nahles.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Germany’s far-right AfD ahead in regional poll with anti-shutdown stance

Best known as an anti-migrant party, Germany's far-right AfD has seized on the coronavirus pandemic to court a new type of voter ahead of regional elections in the state of Saxony-Anhalt on Sunday: anti-shutdown activists.

Germany's far-right AfD ahead in regional poll with anti-shutdown stance
Björn Höcke, party chairman in Thuringia, at an election event in Merseburg, Saxony-Anhalt on May 29th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Willnow

“Sending so many people into poverty with so few infections is problematic for us,” is how Oliver Kirchner, the AfD’s top candidate in Saxony-Anhalt, views the measures ordered by the government to halt Covid-19 transmission.

The anti-shutdown stance seems to be paying off in the former East German state. The party is riding high in the polls and even stands a chance of winning a regional election for the first time.

READ ALSO: Germany’s far-right AfD chooses hardline team ahead of national elections

Surveys have the AfD neck-and-neck with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, with the Bild daily even predicting victory for the far-right party on 26 percent, ahead of the CDU on 25 percent.

In Saxony-Anhalt’s last election in 2016, the CDU was the biggest party, scoring 30 percent and forming a coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens.

But the CDU has taken a hammering in the opinion polls in recent months, with voters unhappy with the government’s pandemic management and a corruption scandal involving shady coronavirus mask contracts.

Social deprivation

A victory for the AfD would spell a huge upset for the conservatives just four months ahead of a general election in Germany — the first in 16 years not to feature Merkel.

They started out campaigning against the euro currency in 2013. Then in 2015 they capitalised on public anger over Merkel’s 2015 decision to let in a wave of asylum seekers from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The party caused a sensation in Germany’s last general election in 2017 when it secured almost 13 percent of the vote, entering parliament for the first time as the largest opposition party.

Troubled by internal divisions and accusations of ties to neo-Nazi fringe groups, the party has more recently seen its support at the national level stagnate at between 10 and 12 percent.

READ ALSO: Germany’s far-right AfD investigated over election ties

The party is also controversial in Saxony-Anhalt itself. In state capital Magdeburg, posters showing local candidate Hagen Kohl have been defaced with Hitler moustaches and the words “Never again”.

For wine merchant Jan Buhmann, 57, victory for the far-right party would be a “disaster”.

“The pandemic has shown that we need new ideas. We need young people, we need dynamism in the state. For me, the AfD does not stand for that,” he said.

Yet the AfD’s core supporters have largely remained unwavering in the former East German states.

For pensioner Hans-Joachim Peters, 73, the AfD is “the only party that actually tells it like it is”.

Politicians should “think less about Europe and more about Germany”, he told AFP in Magdeburg. AfD campaigners there were handing out flyers calling for “resistance” and “an end to all anti-constitutional restrictions on our liberties”.

Political scientist Hajo Funke of Berlin’s Free University puts the AfD’s core strength in eastern Germany down to “social deprivation and frustration” resulting from problems with reunification.

The party’s latest anti-corona restrictions stance has also helped it play up its anti-establishment credentials, adding some voters to its core base, he said.

Other east German states in which the AfD has a stronghold, such as Saxony and Thuringia, continue to have the highest 7-day incidences per 100,000 residents in the country. Saxony-Anhalt’s 7-day incidence, however, currently is below the national average (31.3) as of Wednesday June 3rd.

READ ALSO: Why are coronavirus figures so high in German regions with far-right leanings?

Hijab snub

Funke predicted the AfD would attract broadly the same voters in
Saxony-Anhalt as it did in 2016, when it won 24 percent of the vote.

“Some have dropped off because the party is too radical, some radicals who didn’t vote are now voting and some of those who are anti-corona are also voting for the AfD,” he said.

The Sachsen-Anhalt-Monitor 2020 report, commissioned by the local government, found that the main concern for voters in the region was the economic fallout from the pandemic. But the AfD’s core selling point — immigration and refugees — was number two on their list.

According to AfD candidate Kirchner, many people in Saxony-Anhalt still view the influx of refugees to Germany “very critically”.

“And I think they are right,” he said at a campaign stand in Magdeburg decked in the AfD’s signature blue. “Who is going to rebuild Syria? Who is going to do that if everyone comes here?”

When a young woman wearing a hijab walked past the stand, no one attempted to hand her a flyer.

By Femke Colborne